VIDEO: Post-American world! + The US as a great warrior tribe

RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze speaks to American journalist and CNN programme host Fareed Zakaria to find out what he thinks about Obama’s administration in Washington, and the U.S. influence in the world.

FOCUS: IMPERIUM
The US as a great warrior tribe

According to tribal Yemeni tradition, if a dispute has been resolved peacefully, any dagger that has been drawn cannot go back into its scabbard unless it tastes blood. Traditionally, an animal is slaughtered to satisfy its thirst and restore its holder’s honour.

Since the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact without a single shot, let alone nuclear warheads, being fired, the ‘Greater Middle East’ region has been turned into a real theatre of war.

From the Gulf war in 1991 through to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, from Somalia in 1993 to Yemen in 2010, and through Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US military has gone to great lengths to demonstrate its strategic capacity to act in faraway places and to prove its ability to guard and advance US and Western interests.

In no time, military means and out-right war and occupation replaced diplomacy and international law.

In return, the Pentagon’s budget has almost doubled from the level it was before 9/11 to surpass the combined military expenditures of all the countries of the world, all under the guise of the ‘global war against terror’.

Alas, the costly failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries have demonstrated that the Muslim world is far too stubborn to be offered as a sacrifice in the pursuit of global leadership.

Tribal vs. state identities

Since then, the devastating wars of terror that have taken place in the shadows of accelerated globalisation have weakened state structures and institutions and reinforced tribal and sectarian identities. Regimes not directly affected, took preventative measures by strengthening their grip on power through increased security and tribal alliances.

The US and its regional allies have empowered and financed tribal leaders, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to defeat unrelenting Islamist opposition or nationalist insurgencies, just as America’s enemies have tried to gain the support of tribes for their cause against the “foreigners”.

Washington followed in the footsteps of the UK, which boasts extensive experience of tribal politics in its former colonies, to arm and finance tribal leaders to fight its war in Iraq under the guise of “The Awakening” or ”The Sons of Iraq”.

Likewise in Afghanistan, where the US built on its long experience with the northern tribes in the 1980s to regain the initiative against the Soviet supported regime in Kabul.

In the process, salient – and not so salient – tribal power has been empowered in all the areas of conflict in the ‘Greater Middle East’ by undemocratic leaders. Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Palestine and, even failed states like Afghanistan and Somalia, have witnessed the emergence of tribal loyalties and power.

But the failure of the US and its allies to attain stability – let alone to declare victory – has slowly but surely transformed the political landscape into a coalition of tribes or ‘a warrior ruling tribe’ over many.

‘Sons of America’

This transformation was not limited to the Middle East. Compromised by globalisation and market diktats, the most modern countries, such as the US, just like the least modern, such as Yemen, are increasingly acting in primordial ways and means.

As their sovereignty is compromised by multinational corporate decisions, capital, labour and investment movements, as well as communication and cultural globalisation, many states make up for their diminishing role over their economy and culture through alternative means of collective identities such as rallying their people around the flag.

With the advent of 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, anger, humiliation and fear nudged the US into wars of ‘shock and awe’, revenge, torture, and rendition – stripping their ‘enemy-combatants’ of their very humanity in far away prisons.

The politics of fear engineered by cynical racism and nationalism drove wars that have compromised traditional republican values and civil liberties just as its wars of choice undermined its ‘social contract’ and whipped US citizens into a collective frenzy.

In short, the United States of America, the most powerful and advanced liberal democracy, began acting as the most aggressive of all the world’s tribes. And although much of this change was engineered by the Bush administration under the fog of the ‘war on terror’, Barack Obama’s election has defused war criticism, diminished the ‘peace movement’ and once again united the country under the flags of war.

In the process, tribal loyalty replaced patriotism, revenge superseded legality, and “you’re either with US or against us” wrecked international solidarity and even sympathy with the US after the 9/11 attacks.

War without end

As asymmetrical warfare takes up the fight from conventional wars, battles are replaced by bombings and massacres, military bases by hideouts and remote control rooms, population control and policing by propaganda and terror, and national borders are surpassed by new fault lines passing through every minor Middle Eastern state and every major Western city.

As Afghans, Pakistanis, Yemenis and Somalis volunteer to fight and even die on behalf of their cause and collective identities, against corrupt autocratic regimes, demoralised soldiers and private contractors with fancy gear, who do you think wins at the end of the day?

Before you answer, consider two important lessons of asymmetrical war that have been ignored in the sweeping post-9/11 transformation.

Firstly, in the long term, loyalty, kinship, sacrifice and a sense of justice and belonging is more potent than firepower.

Secondly, “he who fights terrorists for any period of time is likely to become one himself”.

All of which begs for a change in the whole paradigm of the ongoing ‘global war on terror’ that holds entire populations hostage to fear and war.

To be continued …

REF: Al jazeera

Yeswecanistan – The Peace Candidate Myth

All the crying from the left about how Obama “the peace candidate” has now become “a war president” … Whatever are they talking about?

Here’s what I wrote in this report in August 2008, during the election campaign: We find Obama threatening, several times, to attack Iran if they don’t do what the United States wants them to do nuclear-wise; threatening more than once to attack Pakistan if their anti-terrorist policies are not tough enough or if there would be a regime change in the nuclear-armed country not to his liking; calling for a large increase in US troops and tougher policies for Afghanistan; wholly and unequivocally embracing Israel as if it were the 51st state. Why should anyone be surprised at Obama’s foreign policy in the White House? He has not even banned torture, contrary to what his supporters would fervently have us believe.

If further evidence were needed, we have the November 28 report in the Washington Post: “Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.” This is but the latest example of the continuance of torture under the new administration. But the shortcomings of Barack Obama and the naiveté of his fans is not the important issue.

The important issue is the continuation and escalation of the American war in Afghanistan, based on the myth that the individuals we label “Taliban” are indistinguishable from those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, whom we usually label “al Qaeda”. “I am convinced,” the president said in his speech at the United States Military Academy (West Point) on December 1, “that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.” Obama used one form or another of the word “extremist” eleven times in his half-hour talk. Young, impressionable minds must be carefully taught; a future generation of military leaders who will command America’s never-ending wars must have no doubts that the bad guys are “extremists”, that “extremists” are by definition bad guys, that “extremists” are beyond the pale and do not act from human, rational motivation like we do, that we — quintessential non-extremists, peace-loving moderates — are the good guys, forced into one war after another against our will. Sending robotic death machines flying over Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop powerful bombs on the top of wedding parties, funerals, and homes is of course not extremist behavior for human beings. And the bad guys attacked the US “from here”, Afghanistan. That’s why the United States is “there”, Afghanistan. But in fact the 9-11 attack was planned in Germany, Spain and the United States as much as in Afghanistan.

It could have been planned in a single small room in Panama City, Taiwan, or Bucharest. What is needed to plot to buy airline tickets and take flying lessons in the United States? And the attack was carried out entirely in the United States. But Barack Obama has to maintain the fiction that Afghanistan was, and is, vital and indispensable to any attack on the United States, past or future. That gives him the right to occupy the country and kill the citizens as he sees fit. Robert Baer, former CIA officer with long involvement in that part of the world has noted: “The people that want their country liberated from the West have nothing to do with Al Qaeda. They simply want us gone because we’re foreigners, and they’re rallying behind the Taliban because the Taliban are experienced, effective fighters.” The pretenses extend further. US leaders have fed the public a certain image of the insurgents (all labeled together under the name “Taliban”) and of the conflict to cover the true imperialistic motivation behind the war. The predominant image at the headlines/TV news level and beyond is that of the Taliban as an implacable and monolithic “enemy” which must be militarily defeated at all costs for America’s security, with a negotiated settlement or compromise not being an option.

However, consider the following which have been reported at various times during the past two years about the actual behavior of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Taliban, which can raise questions about Obama’s latest escalation: The US military in Afghanistan has long been considering paying Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul, as the United States has done with Iraqi insurgents. President Obama has floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban. US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, said last month that the United States would support any role Saudi Arabia chose to pursue in trying to engage Taliban officials. Canadian troops are reaching out to the Taliban in various ways. A top European Union official and a United Nations staff member were ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration’s knowledge. And two senior diplomats for the United Nations were expelled from the country, accused by the Afghan government of unauthorized dealings with insurgents. However, the Afghanistan government itself has had a series of secret talks with “moderate Taliban” since 2003 and President Hamid Karzai has called for peace talks with Taliban leader Mohammed Omar. Organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the United Nations have become increasingly open about their contacts with the Taliban leadership and other insurgent groups.

Gestures of openness are common practice among some of Washington’s allies in Afghanistan, notably the Dutch, who make negotiating with the Taliban an explicit part of their military policy. The German government is officially against negotiations, but some members of the governing coalition have suggested Berlin host talks with the Taliban. MI-6, Britain’s external security service, has held secret talks with the Taliban up to half a dozen times. At the local level, the British cut a deal, appointing a former Taliban leader as a district chief in Helmand province in exchange for security guarantees. Senior British officers involved with the Afghan mission have confirmed that direct contact with the Taliban has led to insurgents changing sides as well as rivals in the Taliban movement providing intelligence which has led to leaders being killed or captured. British authorities hold that there are distinct differences between different “tiers” of the Taliban and that it is essential to try to separate the doctrinaire extremists from others who are fighting for money or because they resent the presence of foreign forces in their country. British contacts with the Taliban have occurred despite British Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly ruling out such talks; on one occasion he told the House of Commons: “We will not enter into any negotiations with these people.” For months there have been repeated reports of “good Taliban” forces being airlifted by Western helicopters from one part of Afghanistan to another to protect them from Afghan or Pakistani military forces. At an October 11 news conference in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai himself claimed that “some unidentified helicopters dropped armed men in the northern provinces at night.” On November 2, IslamOnline.net (Qatar) reported: “The emboldened Taliban movement in Afghanistan turned down an American offer of power-sharing in exchange for accepting the presence of foreign troops, Afghan government sources confirmed. ‘US negotiators had offered the Taliban leadership through Mullah Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil (former Taliban foreign minister) that if they accept the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, they would be given the governorship of six provinces in the south and northeast …

America wants eight army and air force bases in different parts of Afghanistan in order to tackle the possible regrouping of [the] Al-Qaeda network,’ a senior Afghan Foreign Ministry official told IslamOnline.net.” There has been no confirmation of this from American officials, but the New York Times on October 28 listed six provinces that were being considered to receive priority protection from the US military, five which are amongst the eight mentioned in the IslamOnline report as being planned for US military bases, although no mention is made in the Times of the above-mentioned offer. The next day, Asia Times reported: “The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan [or Nooristan], on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles.” Nuristan, where earlier in the month eight US soldiers were killed and three Apache helicopters hit by hostile fire, is one of the six provinces offered to the Taliban as reported in the IslamOnline.net story. The part about al-Qaeda is ambiguous and questionable, not only because the term has long been loosely used as a catch-all for any group or individual in opposition to US foreign policy in this part of the world, but also because the president’s own national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, stated in early October: “I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban. Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling. The al-Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.” Shortly after Jones’s remarks, we could read in the Wall Street Journal: “Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al-Qaida is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistan and U.S. officials. … For Arab youths who are al-Qaida’s primary recruits, ‘it’s not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding,’ said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.” From all of the above is it not reasonable to conclude that the United States is willing and able to live with the Taliban, as repulsive as their social philosophy is? Perhaps even a Taliban state which would go across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been talked about in some quarters. What then is Washington fighting for? What moves the president of the United States to sacrifice so much American blood and treasure? In past years, US leaders have spoken of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, liberating Afghan women, or modernizing a backward country. President Obama made no mention of any of these previous supposed vital goals in his December 1 speech. He spoke only of the attacks of September 11, al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, extremists, and such, symbols guaranteed to fire up an American audience.

Yet, the president himself declared at one point: “Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.” Ah yes, the terrorist danger … always, everywhere, forever, particularly when it seems the weakest. How many of the West Point cadets, how many Americans, give thought to the fact that Afghanistan is surrounded by the immense oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea regions? Or that Afghanistan is ideally situated for oil and gas pipelines to serve much of Europe and south Asia, lines that can deliberately bypass non-allies of the empire, Iran and Russia? If only the Taliban will not attack the lines. “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south …”, said Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in 2007. Afghanistan would also serve as the home of American military bases, the better to watch and pressure next-door Iran and the rest of Eurasia. And NATO … struggling to find a raison d’être since the end of the Cold War. If the alliance is forced to pull out of Afghanistan without clear accomplishments after eight years will its future be even more in doubt? So, for the present at least, the American War on Terror in Afghanistan continues and regularly and routinely creates new anti-American terrorists, as it has done in Iraq. This is not in dispute even at the Pentagon or the CIA. God Bless America. William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

*Ref: counterpunch

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

Nobel peace prize citation for Barack Obama – WHAT A DISGRAAAAAAACE!!!


Nobel peace prize citation for Barack Obama

Barack Obama presides over a UN security council meeting on nuclear weapons.

Barack Obama at a UN security council meeting on nuclear weapons: the Nobel peace prize committee singled out his work on disarmament for praise. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

“The Norwegian Nobel committee has decided that the Nobel peace prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The committee endorses Obama’s appeal that ‘Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges’.”

VIDEO: Israelis Soldiers refuse to serve in Gaza + Heartbreakin story from Gaza ‘Israeli soldiers shoot children while eating chocolate and chips’

PERSPECTIVE: Shooting Down Iran Air Flight 655 [IR655] (American imperialism + trigger happniess)

On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) was shot down by USS Vincennes on the Bandar Abbas-Dubai rout, which resulted in the loss of life of 290 innocent civilian from six nations including 66 children. There were 38 non-Iranians aboard.

On the morning of that disastrous day, 3rd of July, the captain and crew of Flight 655 were at Bandar Abbas airfield in southern Iran, preparing for the second leg of their routine 150-mile flight over the Persian Gulf to Dubai. Flight 655 was a commercial flight operated by Iran Air that flew on a Tehran-Bandar Abbas-Dubai route.

Shooting Down Iran Air Flight 655 [IR655]

Are they REALLY Oil Wars?

A most widely-cited factor behind the recent U.S. wars of choice is said to be oil. “No Blood for Oil” has been a rallying cry for most of the opponents of the war. While some of these opponents argue that the war is driven by the U.S. desire for cheap oil, others claim that it is prompted by big oil’s wish for high oil prices and profits. Interestingly, most antiwar forces use both claims interchangeably without paying attention to the fact that they are diametrically-opposed assertions.

Not only do the two arguments contradict each other, but each argument is also wanting and unconvincing on its own grounds; not because the U.S. does not wish for cheap oil, or because Big Oil does not desire higher oil prices, but because war is no longer the way to control or gain access to energy resources. Colonial-type occupation or direct control of energy resources is no longer efficient or economical and has, therefore, been abandoned for more than four decades.

The view that recent U.S. military adventures in the Middle East and the broader Central Asia are driven by energy considerations is further reinforced by the dubious theory of Peak Oil, which maintains that, having peaked, world oil resources are now dwindling and that, therefore, war power and military strength are key to access or control of the shrinking energy resources.

In this study I will first argue that the Peak Oil theory is unscientific, unrealistic, and perhaps even fraudulent. I will then show that war and military force are no longer the necessary or appropriate means to gain access to sources of energy, and that resorting to military measures can, indeed, lead to costly, not cheap, oil. Next, I will demonstrate that, despite the lucrative spoils of war resulting from high oil prices and profits, Big Oil prefers peace and stability, not war and geopolitical turbulence, in global energy markets. Finally, I will argue a case that behind the drive to war and military adventures in the Middle East lie some powerful special interests (vested in war, militarism, and geopolitical concerns of Israel) that use oil as an issue of “national interest”—as a façade or pretext—in order to justify military adventures to derive high dividends, both economic and geopolitical, from war.

Has Oil Really Peaked—and Is It Running Out?

Peak oil thesis, as noted above, maintains that world oil reserves, having reached their maximum capacity, are now dwindling—with grave consequences of oil shortage and high energy prices. While this has led many to call for more vigorous conservation, it has led others to argue in favor of unrestrained exploration and extraction of oil reserves, especially those located in the Alaskan Wildlife regions.

Significant policy and/or political implications follow from the view that oil is running out. For one thing, this view provides fodder for the cannons of war profiteering militarists who are constantly on the look out to invent new enemies and find new pretexts for continued war and escalation of military spending. For another, it tends to disarm many antiwar forces that accept this thesis and, therefore, “internalize responsibility for U.S. foreign policy every time they fill their gas tank. Thus they own the wars.”[1]

The Peak Oil thesis serves as a powerful trap and a clever manipulation in that it lets the real forces of war and militarism (the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel lobby) “off the hook; it is a fabulous redirection. All evils are blamed on a commodity upon which we are all utterly dependent.”[2]

The fact, however, is that there is no hard evidence that oil has peaked, or that global oil reserves are shrinking, or that the current skyrocketing price of oil is due to a supply shortage. (As shown below, there is actually an oil surplus, no shortage.)

Peak oil theory is not altogether new. It was originally floated around in the 1940s, arguing that world oil reserves would be exhausted within the next two decades or so. It then resurfaced in the 1970s and early 1980s in reaction to the oil price hikes of those years—which were, incidentally, precipitated not by oil shortages but by international political convulsions, revolutions and wars. But it died down once the price of oil fell back to pre-crises levels.

As recent geopolitical convulsions in the Middle East (especially the U.S. war on Iraq, and the resultant booming speculation in oil markets) have triggered a new round of oil price hikes, Peak Oil theory has once again become fashionable. The theory is being promoted not only by war profiteers and proponents of an unbridled domestic oil exploration and extraction, especially in Alaska, but also by some apparently antiwar liberals such as Michael T. Klare and James H. Kunstler.[3]

Peak oil theory is based on a number of assumptions and omissions that make it less than reliable. To begin with, it discounts or disregards the fact that energy-saving technologies have drastically improved (and will continue to further improve) the efficiency of oil consumption. Evidence shows that, for example, “over a period of five years (1994-99), U.S. GDP expanded over 20 percent while oil usage rose by only nine percent. Before the 1973 oil shock, the ratio was about one to one.”[4]

Second, Peak Oil theory pays scant attention to the drastically enabling new technologies that have made (and will continue to make) possible discovery and extraction of oil reserves that were inaccessible only a short time ago. One of the results of the more efficient means of research and development has been a far higher success rate in finding new oil fields. The success rate has risen in twenty years from less than 70 percent to over 80 percent. Computers have helped to reduce the number of dry holes. Horizontal drilling has boosted extraction. Another important development has been deep-water offshore drilling, which the new technologies now permit. Good examples are the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and more recently, the promising offshore oil fields of West Africa.[5]

Third, Peak Oil theory also pays short shrift to what is sometimes called non-conventional oil. These include Canada’s giant reserves of extra-heavy bitumen that can be processed to produce conventional oil. Although this was originally considered cost inefficient, experts working in this area now claim that they have brought down the cost from over $20 a barrel to $8 per barrel. Similar developments are taking place in Venezuela. It is thanks to developments like these that since 1970, world oil reserves have more than doubled, despite the extraction of hundreds of millions of barrels.[6]

Fourth, Peak Oil thesis pays insufficient attention to energy sources other than oil. These include solar, wind, non-food bio-fuel, and nuclear energies. They also include natural gas. Gas is now about 25 percent of energy demand worldwide. It is estimated that by 2050 it will be the main source of energy in the world. A number of American, European, and Japanese firms have and are investing heavily in developing fuel cells for cars and other vehicles that would significantly reduce gasoline consumption.[7]

Fifth, proponents of Peak Oil tend to exaggerate the impact of the increased oil demand coming from China and India on both the amount and the price of oil in global markets. The alleged disparity between supply and demand is said to be due to the rapidly growing demand coming from China and India. But that rapid growth in demand is largely offset by a number of counterbalancing factors. These include slower growth in U.S. demand due to its slower economic growth, efficient energy utilization in industrially advanced countries, and increases in oil production by OPEC, Russia, and other oil producing countries.

Finally, and perhaps more importantly, claims of “peaked and dwindling” oil are refuted by the available facts and figures on global oil supply. Statistical evidence shows that there is absolutely no supply-demand imbalance in global oil markets. Contrary to the claims of the proponents of Peak Oil and champions of war and militarism, the current oil price shocks are a direct consequence of the destabilizing wars and geopolitical insecurity in the Middle East, not oil shortages. These include not only the raging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the threat of a looming war against Iran. The record of soaring oil prices shows that anytime there is a renewed U.S. military threat against Iran, fuel prices move up several notches.

The war also contributes to the escalation of fuel prices in indirect ways—for example, by plunging the U.S. ever deeper into debt and depreciating the dollar, or by creating favorable grounds for speculation. As oil is priced largely in U.S. dollars, oil exporting countries ask for more dollars per barrel of oil as the dollar loses value. Perhaps more importantly, an atmosphere of war and geopolitical instability in global oil markets serves as an auspicious ground for hoarding and speculation in commodity markets, especially oil, which is heavily contributing to the recently soaring oil prices.

As much as 60% of today’s crude oil price is pure speculation driven by large trader banks and hedge funds. It has nothing to do with the convenient myths of Peak Oil. It has to do with control of oil and its price. . . . Since the advent of oil futures trading and the two major London and New York oil futures contracts, control of oil prices has left OPEC and gone to Wall Street. It is a classic case of the ‘tail that wags the dog.’[8]

Wall Street financial giants that created the Third World debt crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the tech bubble in the 1990s, and the housing bubble in the 2000s are now hard at work creating the oil bubble. By purchasing large numbers of futures contracts, and thereby pushing up futures prices to even higher levels than current prices, speculators have provided a financial incentive for oil companies to buy even more oil and place it in storage. A refiner will purchase extra oil today, even if it costs $115 per barrel, if the futures price is even higher.[9]

This has led to a steady rise in crude oil inventories over the last two years, “resulting in US crude oil inventories that are now higher than at any time in the previous eight years. The large influx of speculative investment into oil futures has led to a situation where we have both high supplies of crude oil and high crude oil prices. . . . In fact, during this period global supplies have exceeded demand, according to the US Department of Energy.”[10]

The fact that the skyrocketing oil prices of late have been accompanied by a surplus in global oil markets was also brought to the attention of President George W. Bush by Saudi officials when he asked them during a recent trip to the kingdom to increase production in order to stem the rising prices. Saudi officials reminded the President that “there is plenty of oil on the market. Iran has put some 30 million barrels of oil that it can’t sell into floating storage. ‘If we produced more oil, it wouldn’t find buyers,’ says the Saudi source. It wouldn’t affect the price at all.”[11]

And why producing more oil “wouldn’t affect the price at all”? Well, because what is driving the soaring oil prices is not shortage but speculation: “with so much investment money sloshing around in the commodities markets, the Saudis calculate they have no hope of controlling short-term price fluctuations. They blame the recent price run-ups on speculation and fear of shortages [not real shortages], factors they say are beyond their control.”[12]

War for Cheap Oil?

The widely-shared view that the U.S. desire for access to abundant and cheap oil lurks behind the Bush administration’s drive to war in the Middle East rests on the implicit but dubious assumption that access to energy resources requires direct control of oil fields and/or oil producing countries. There are at least three problems with this postulation.

First, if control of or influence over oil producing countries in the Middle East is a requirement for access to cheap oil, the United States already enjoys significant influence over some of the major oil producers in the region—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and a number of other smaller producers. Why, then, would the U.S. want to bring about war and political turmoil in the region that might undermine that long and firmly-established influence?

Let us assume for a moment that the neoconservative militarists are sincere in their alleged desire to bring about democratic rule and representational government in the Middle East. Let us further assume that they succeed in realizing this purported objective. Would, then, the thus-emerging democratic governments, representing the wishes of the majority of their citizens, be as accommodating to U.S. economic and geopolitical objectives, including its oil needs, as are its currently friendly rulers in the region? Most probably not.

Secondly, and more importantly, access to oil no longer requires control of oil fields or oil producers—as was the case in times past. For more than a century, that is, from the early days of oil extraction in the United States in the 1870s until the mid-1970s, the price of oil was determined administratively, that is, by independent producers operating in different parts of the world without having to compete with each other. Under those circumstances, colonial or imperial wars of conquest and occupation were crucial to the control of oil (and other) resources.

Beginning with the 1950s, however, that pattern of local, non-competitive price determination began to gradually change in favor of regional and/or international markets. By the mid 1970s, an internationally competitive oil market emerged that effectively ended the century-old pattern of local, administrative pricing. Today, oil prices (like most other commodity prices) are determined largely by the forces of supply and demand in competitive global energy markets; and any country or company can have as much oil as they wish if they pay the going market (or spot) price.[13]

To the extent that competitive oil markets and/or prices are occasionally manipulated, such subversions of competitive market forces are often brought about not so much by OPEC or other oil producing countries as by manipulative speculations of financial giants in New York and London. As was discussed earlier, gigantic Wall Street financial institutions have accomplished this feat through “innovative” financial instruments such as establishment of energy hedge funds and speculative oil futures markets in New York and London.[14]

It is true that collective supply decisions of oil producing countries can, and sometimes does, affect the competitively determined market price. But a number of important issues need to be considered here.

To begin with, although such supply manipulations obviously affect or influence market-determined prices, they do not determine those prices. In other words, competitive international oil markets determine its price with or without oil producers’ supply manipulations. Such supply managements are, however, designed not to create volatility in energy markets, or chronic oil price hikes. Instead, they are designed to stabilize global oil prices because oil exporting countries prefer stability, predictability and long-term planning for their economic development and industrialization projects. Here is how Cyrus Bina and Minh Vo describe this relationship:

As a result, we conclude that the global oil market is the prime mover [i.e., prime determinant of oil price] and OPEC indeed follows its trajectory accordingly and consistently. . . . When market price (both spot and futures) is falling, OPEC decreases its output; when market price is rising, OPEC attempts to increase its output; and when market price is steady, OPEC keeps its output unchanged. . . . And, this is a kind of oil market we have experienced after the dust settled following the crisis of de-cartelization and globalization of oil industry in the 1970s.[15]

Producers’ policy to sometimes curtail or limit the supply of oil, the so-called “limited flow” policy, is designed to raise the actual trading price above the market-determined price in order to keep high-cost U.S. producers in business while leaving low-cost Middle East producers with an above average, or “super,” profit. While for low-cost producers this limited flow policy is largely a matter of making more or less profits, for high-cost U.S. producers it is a matter of survival, of being able to stay in or go out of business—an important but rarely mentioned or acknowledged fact.

A hypothetical numerical example might be helpful here. Suppose that the market-determined, or free-flow, price of oil is $30 per barrel. Further, suppose this price entails an average rate of profit of 10 percent, or $3 per barrel. The word “average” in this context refers to average conditions of production, that is, producers who produce under average conditions of production in terms of productivity and cost of production. This means that producers who produce under better-than-average conditions, that is, low-cost, high productivity producers, will make a profit higher than $3 per barrel while high-cost, low efficiency producers will end up making less than $3 per barrel. This also means that some of the high-cost producers may end up going out of business altogether. Now, if the limited flow policy raises the actual trading price to $35 per barrel, it will raise the profits of all producers accordingly, thereby also keeping in business some high-cost producers that might otherwise have gone out of business.

Furthermore, supply manipulation (in pursuit of price manipulation) is not limited to the oil industry. In today’s economic environment of giant corporations and big businesses, many of the major industries try, and often succeed in controlling supply in order to control price. Take, for example, the automobile industry. Theoretically, automobile producers could flood the market with a huge supply of cars. But that would not be good business as it would lower prices and profits. So, they control supply, just as do oil producers, in order to manipulate price. During the past several decades, the price of automobiles, in real terms, has been going up every year, at least to the tune of inflation. During this period, the industry (and the economy in general) has enjoyed a many-fold increase in labor productivity. Increased labor productivity is supposed to translate into lower costs and, therefore, lower prices. Yet, that has not materialized in the case of this industry—as it has in the case of, for example, pocket calculators or computers.

Another example of price control through supply manipulation is the case of U.S. grain producers. The so-called “set aside” policy that pays farmers not to cultivate part of their land in order to curtail supply and prop up price is not different—nay, it is worse— than OPEC’s policy of supply and/or price manipulation.

It is also necessary to keep in mind that OPEC’s desire to sometimes limit the supply of oil in order to shore up its price is limited by a number of factors. For one thing, the share, and hence the influence, of Middle Eastern oil producers as a percentage of world oil production has steadily declined over time, from almost 40 percent when OPEC was established to about 30 percent today.[16] For another, OPEC members are not unmindful of the fact that inordinately high oil prices can hurt their own long-term interests as this might prompt oil importers to economize on oil consumption and search for alternative sources of energy, thereby limiting producers’ export markets.

OPEC members also know that inordinately high oil prices could precipitate economic recessions in oil importing countries that would, once again, lower demand for their oil. In addition, high oil prices tend to raise the cost of oil producers’ imports of manufactured products as high energy costs are bound to affect production costs of those manufactured products.

War for Expensive Oil?

Now let us consider the widely-shared view that attributes the Bush administration’s drive to war to the influence of big oil companies in pursuit of higher oil prices and profits. As noted, this is obviously the opposite of the “war for cheap oil” argument, as it claims that Big Oil tends to instigate war and political tension in the Middle East in order to cause an oil price hike and increase its profits. Like the “war for cheap oil” theory, this claim is not supported by facts. Although the claim has an element of a prima facie reasonableness, that apparently facile credibility rests more on precedent and perception than reality. Part of the perception is due to the exaggerated notion that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were “oil men” before coming to the White House. But the fact is that George W. Bush was never more than an unsuccessful petty oil prospector and Dick Cheney headed a company, the notorious Halliburton, that sold (and still sells) services to oil companies and the Pentagon.

The larger part of the perception, however, stems from the fact that oil companies do benefit from oil price hikes that result from war and political turbulence in the Middle East. Such benefits are, however, largely incidental. Surely, American oil companies would welcome the spoils of the war (that result from oil price hikes) in Iraq or anywhere else in the world. From the largely incidental oil price hikes that follow war and political convulsion, some observers automatically conclude that, therefore, Big Oil must have been behind the war.[17] But there is no evidence that, at least in the case of the current invasion of Iraq, oil companies pushed for or supported the war.

On the contrary, there is strong evidence that, in fact, oil companies did not welcome the war because they prefer stability and predictability to periodic oil spikes that follow war and political convulsion: “Looking back over the last 20 years, there is plenty of evidence showing the industry’s push for stability and cooperation with Middle Eastern countries and leaders, and the U.S. government’s drive for hegemony works against the oil industry.”[18] As Thierry Desmarest, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of France’s giant oil company, TotalFinaElf, put it, “A few months of cash generation is not a big deal. Stable, not volatile, prices and a $25 price (per barrel) would be convenient for everyone.”[19]

It is true that for a long time, from the beginning of Middle Eastern oil exploration and discovery in the early twentieth century until the mid-1970s, colonial and/or imperial powers controlled oil either directly or through control of oil producing countries—at times, even by military force. But that pattern of colonial or imperialist exploitation of global markets and resources has changed now. Most of the current theories of imperialism and hegemony that continue invoking that old pattern of Big Oil behavior tend to suffer from an ahistorical perspective. Today, as discussed earlier, even physically occupying and controlling another country’s oil fields will not necessarily be beneficial to oil interests. Not only will military adventures place the operations of current energy projects at jeopardy, but they will also make the future plans precarious and unpredictable. Big Oil interests, of course, know this; and that’s why they did not countenance the war on Iraq: “The big oil companies were not enthusiastic about the Iraqi war,” says Fareed Mohamedi of PFC Energy, an energy consultancy firm based in Washington D.C. that advises petroleum firms. “Corporations like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron-Texaco want stability, and this is not what Bush is providing in Iraq and the Gulf region,” adds Mohamedi.[20]

Big Oil interests also know that not only is war no longer the way to gain access to oil, it is in fact an obstacle to gaining that access. Exclusion of U.S. oil companies from vast oil resources in countries such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and a number of central Asian countries due to militaristic U.S. foreign policy is a clear testament to this fact. Many of these countries (including, yes, Iran) would be glad to have major U.S. oil companies invest, explore and extract oil from their rich reserves. Needless to say that U.S. oil companies would be delighted to have access to those oil resources. But U.S. champions of war and militarism have successfully torpedoed such opportunities through their unilateral wars of aggression and their penchant for a Cold War-like international atmosphere.

When Vladimir Putin first became president of Russia he was willing to allow American energy companies to continue with the one-sided contracts they had drawn up during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency. Putin built a seemingly trusting relationship with George Bush who looked into Putin’s soul and liked what he saw. The two leaders grew even closer in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on World Trade Centre and the Pentagon—when Russia provided “help for America’s invasion of Afghanistan.” Soon after this generous cooperation, however, “Bush repudiated the anti-ballistic missile treaty in the belief that America could develop the technology for winning a nuclear war. This posed a huge strategic threat to Russia.”[21]

Describing the heavy-handed, imperial U.S. policy toward Russia, Stephen F. Cohen writes: “The real US policy has been very different—a relentless, winner-take-all exploitation of Russia’s post-1991 weakness. Accompanied by broken American promises, condescending lectures and demands for unilateral concessions, it has been even more aggressive and uncompromising than was Washington’s approach to Soviet Communist Russia.”[22]

Bush’s withdrawal from the ABM treaty not merely posed an existential threat to Russia but was almost a betrayal of the trust that Putin had put in him. This led to Putin’s disenchantment with America. “Eventually he seems to have decided that every time America transgressed against Russian interests he would retaliate by stopping another American company from exploiting Russian resources.”[23]

During the past few decades, major oil companies have consistently opposed U.S. policies and military threats against countries like Iran, Iraq, and Libya. They have, indeed, time and again, lobbied U.S. foreign policy makers for the establishment of peaceful relations and diplomatic rapprochement with those countries. The Iran-Libya Sanction Act of 1996 (ILSA) is a strong testament to the fact that oil companies nowadays view wars, economic sanctions, and international political tensions as harmful to their long-term business interests and, accordingly, strive for peace, not war, in international relations.

On March 15, 1995 President Clinton issued Executive Order 12957 which banned all U.S. contributions to the development of Iran’s petroleum resources, a crushing blow to the oil industry, especially to the Conoco oil company that had just signed a $1 billion contract to develop fields in Iran. The deal marked a strong indication that Iran was willing to improve its relationship with the United States, only to have President Clinton effectively nullify it. Two months later, sighting “an extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the U.S.,” President Clinton issued another order, 1259, that expanded the sanctions to become a total trade and investment embargo against Iran. Then a year later came ILSA which extended the sanctions imposed on Iran to Libya as well.

It is no secret that the major force behind the Iran-Libya Sanction Act was the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main Zionist lobby in Washington. The success of AIPAC in passing ILSA through both the Congress and the White House over the opposition of the major U.S. oil companies is testament to the fact that, in the context of U.S. policy in the Middle East, even the influence of the oil industry pales vis-à-vis the influence of the Zionist lobby.[24]

ILSA was originally to be imposed on both U.S. and foreign companies. However, in the end it was the U.S. companies that suffered the most due to waivers that were given to European companies after pressure from the European Union. In 1996 the EU pursued its distaste of ILSA by lodging complaints with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the U.S. and through adopting “blocking legislation” that would prevent EU companies from complying with ILSA. Meanwhile, the contract that Iran had originally signed with Conoco was awarded to TotalFinaElf of France for $760 million; the deal also left the door open for Total to sign an additional contract with Iran for $2 billion in 1997 with their partners Gazprom and Petronas.

In May of 1997 major U.S. oil companies such as Conoco, Exxon, Atlantic Richfield, and Occidental Petroleum joined other (non-military) U.S. companies to create an anti-sanction coalition. Earlier that same year Conoco’s Chief Executive Archie Dunham publicly took a stance against unilateral U.S. sanctions by stating that “U.S. companies, not rogue regimes, are the ones that suffer when the United States imposes economic sanctions.” Texaco officials have also argued that the U.S. can be more effective in bringing about change in other countries by allowing U.S. companies to do business with those countries instead of imposing economic sanctions that tend to be counterproductive.

Alas, Washington’s perverse, misguided and ineffectual policy of economic sanctions for political purposes—often in compliance with the wishes of some powerful special interests—continues unabated. “Even with the increased pro-trade lobbying efforts of the oil industry and groups like USAEngage, whose membership ranges from farmers and small business owners to Wall Street executives and oilmen, the lack of support from Washington and the Bush administration could not allow them [major oil companies and other non-military transnational companies] to overtake or counteract the already rolling momentum of AIPAC’s influence on Middle East policy or the renewal of ISLA.”[25]

Despite the fact that oil companies nowadays view war and political turmoil in the Middle East as detrimental to their long-term interests and, therefore, do not support policies that are conducive to war and militarism, and despite the fact that war is no longer the way to gain access to oil, the widespread perception that every U.S. military engagement in the region, including the current invasion of Iraq, is prompted by oil considerations continues. The question is why?

Behind the Myth of War for Oil

The widely-shared but erroneous view that recent U.S. wars of choice are driven by oil concerns is partly due to precedence: the fact that for a long time military force was key to colonial or imperialist control and exploitation of foreign markets and resources, including oil. It is also partly due to perception: the exaggerated notion that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were “oil men” before coming to the White House. But, as noted earlier, George W. Bush was never more than an ineffective minor oil prospector and Dick Cheney was never really an oil man; he headed the notorious Halliburton company that sold (and still sells) services to oil companies and the Pentagon.

But the major reason for the persistence of this pervasive myth seems to stem from certain deliberate efforts that are designed to perpetuate the legend in order to camouflage some real economic and geopolitical special interests that drive U.S. military adventures in the Middle East. There is evidence that both the military-industrial complex and hard-line Zionist proponents of “greater Israel” disingenuously use oil (as an issue of national interest) in order to disguise their own nefarious special interests and objectives: justification of continued expansion of military spending, extension of sales markets for military hardware, and recasting the geopolitical map of the Middle East in favor of Israel.

There is also evidence that for every dollar’s worth of oil imported from the Persian Gulf region the Pentagon takes five dollars out of the Federal budget to “secure” the flow of that oil! This is a clear indication that the claim that the U.S. military presence in the Middle East is due to oil consideration is a fraud .[26]

While anecdotal, an example of how partisans of war and militarism use oil as a pretext to cover up the real forces behind war and militarism can be instructive. In the early stages of the invasion of Iraq, when the anti-occupation resistance in Iraq had not yet taken shape and the invasion seemed to be proceeding smoothly, two of the leading champions of the invasion, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, often boasting of the apparent or pre-mature success of the invasion at those early stages, gave frequent news conferences and press reports. During one of those press reports (at the end of an address to delegates at an Asian security summit in Singapore in early June 2003), Wolfowitz was asked why North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found. Wolfowitz’s response was: “Let’s look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.”[27]

Many opponents of the war jumped on this statement, so to speak, as corroboration of what they had been saying or suspecting all along: that the war on Iraq was prompted by oil interests. Yet, there is strong evidence—some of which presented in the preceding pages—that for the last several decades oil interests have not favored war and turbulence in the Middle East, including the current invasion of Iraq. Nor is war any longer the way to gain access to oil. Major oil companies, along with many other non-military transnational corporations, have lobbied both the Clinton and Bush administrations in support of changing the aggressive, militaristic U.S. policy toward countries like Iran, Iraq and Libya in favor of establishing normal, non-confrontational trade and diplomatic relations. Such efforts at normalization of trade and diplomatic relations, however, have failed time and again precisely because Wolfowitz and his cohorts, working through AIPAC and other war-mongering think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) oppose them.

These think tanks, in collaboration with a whole host of similar militaristic lobbying entities like Center for Security Affairs (CSA) and National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP), working largely as institutional façades to serve the defacto alliance of the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel lobby, have repeatedly thwarted efforts at peace and reconciliation in the Middle East—often over the objections and frustrations of major U.S. oil companies. It is a well established fact that Wolfowitz has been a devoted champion of these jingoistic think tanks and their aggressive unilateral policies in the Middle East. In light of his professional record and political loyalties, his claim that he championed the war on Iraq because of oil considerations can be characterized only as demagogic: it contradicts his political record and defies the policies he has been advocating for the last several decades; it is designed to divert attention from the main forces behind the war, the armaments lobby and the pro-Israel lobby.

These powerful interests are careful not to draw attention to the fact that they are the prime instigators of war and militarism in the Middle East. Therefore, they tend to deliberately perpetuate the popular perception that oil is the driving force behind the war in the region. They even do not mind having their aggressive foreign policies labeled as imperialistic as long as imperialism implies some vague or general connotations of hegemony and domination, that is, as long as it thus camouflages the real, special interests behind the war and political turbulence in the Middle East.

The oil and other non-military transnational corporations’ aversion to war and military adventures in the Middle East stem, of course, from the logical behavior of global or transnational capital in the era of integrated world markets, which tends to be loath to war and international political convulsions. Considering the fact that both importers and exporters of oil prefer peace and stability to war and militarism, why would, then, the flow of oil be in jeopardy if the powerful beneficiaries of war and political tension in the Middle East stopped their aggressive policies in the region?

Partisans of war in the Middle East tend to portray U.S. military operations in the region as reactions to terrorism and political turbulence in order to “safeguard the interests of the United States and its allies.” Yet, a close scrutiny of action-reaction or cause-effect relationship between U.S. military adventures and socio-political turbulence in the region reveals that perhaps the causality is the other way around. That is, social upheavals and political convulsions in the Middle East are more likely to be the result, not the cause, of U.S. foreign policy in the region, especially its one-sided, prejudicial Israeli-Palestinian policy. The U.S. policy of war and militarism in the region seems to resemble the behavior of a corrupt cop, or a mafia godfather, who would instigate fights and frictions in the neighborhood or community in order to, then, portray his parasitic role as necessary for the safety and security of the community and, in the process, fill out his deep pockets.

No matter how crucial oil is to the world economy, the fact remains that it is, after all, a commodity. As such, international trade in oil is as important to its importers as it is to its exporters. There is absolutely no reason that, in a world free of the influence of the beneficiaries of war and militarism and their powerful lobbies (the armaments and the pro-Israel lobbies), the flow of oil could not be guaranteed by international trade conventions and commercial treaties.

Ref: Palestinian ThinkTank

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of the recently published The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

References

[1] Ron Andreas, reporter/researcher, e-mail correspondence with the author.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (New York: Holt paperbacks 2002); James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century (Grove/Atlantic, 2005).
[4] Eliyahu Kanovsky, “Oil: Who’s Really Over a Barrel?” Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2003).
[5] Ibid.
[6] The Wall Street Journal (17 May 2001); cited in Eliyahu Kantovsky, Ibid.
[7] The Wall Street Journal (10 March 1998); cited in Eliyahu Kantovsky, Ibid.
[8] F. William Engdahl, “Perhaps 60% of Today’s Oil Price Is Pure Speculation,” financialsense.com (2 May 2008)
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Stanley Reed, “Help from the House of Saud: Why the leading oil producer wants to cool off the market,” Business Week (29 May 2008)
[12] Ibid.
[13] Cyrus Bina and Minh Vo, “OPEC in the Epoch of Globalization: An Event Study of Global Oil Prices,” Global Economy Journal, Vol. 7, Issue 1 (2007); for a discussion of the theory and history of oil price determination see also, Cyrus Bina, “The Rhetoric of Oil and the Dilemma of War and American Hegemony,” Arab Studies Quarterly 15, no. 3 (Summer 1993); also Cyrus Bina, “Limits of OPEC Pricing: OPEC Profits and the Nature of Global Oil Accumulation,” OPEC Review 14, no. 1 (Spring 1990).
[14] F. William Engdahl, “Perhaps 60% of Today’s Oil Price Is Pure Speculation,” financialsense.com (2 May 2008),
[15] Cyrus Bina and Minh Vo, “OPEC in the Epoch of Globalization: An Event Study of Global Oil Prices,” Global Economy Journal, Vol. 7, Issue 1 (2007).
[16] Gary S. Becker, “Why War with Iraq Is Not about Oil,” Business Week (17 March 2003): 30.
[17] Johnathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler. The Global Political Economy of Israel (London and Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press, 2002).
[18] Melinda K. Ruby, “Is Oil the Driving Force to War?” unpublished Senior thesis, Dept. of Economics and Finance, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa (spring 2004), 10.
[19] As quoted in Ruby, Ibid., P. 13.
[20] As cited by Roger Burbach, “Bush Ideologues vs. Big Oil: The Iraq Game Gets Even Stranger,” CounterPunch.
[21] Israel Shamir, The Writings of Israel Shamir, Contributor 45
[22] Stephen F. Cohen “The New American Cold War,” The Nation (10 July 2006); as quoted in Shamir, Ibid.
[23] Shamir, Ibid.
[24] Ruby, “Is Oil the Driving Force to War?” pp. 14-15; see also Herman Franssen and Elaine Morton, “A Review of U.S. Unilateral Sanctions Against Iran,” Middle East Economic Survey 45, no. 34 (26 August 2002), pp. D1-D5 (D section contains op eds. as opposed to staff-written articles).
[25] Ruby, “Is Oil the Driving Force to War?” pp. 16-17; see also David Ivanovich, “Conoco’s Chief Blasts Sanctions,” Houston Chronicle (12 February 1997).
[27] The statement was widely reported by many news papers and other media outlets. See, for example, The Guardian (4 June 2003)

first published on Counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.org/zadeh07092008.html

KILL EVERYBODY: American soldier exposes US policy in Iraq

Also…What-happened-at-haditha??!!

What happened at Haditha?

Battle For Haditha UK DVD Trailer

Eyewitness reportage about haditha massacre

What happened at Haditha?

Haditha is an agricultural community of about 90,000 people on the banks of the Euphrates north-west of Baghdad.
It lies in the huge western province of Anbar, which became the heartland of the insurgency after US-led troops invaded Iraq in 2003.

It was a dangerous place for the US marines who control this part of Iraq – and for the inhabitants, caught between insurgents and American troops.

On the morning of 19 November 2005, the Subhani neighbourhood was the scene of an event that was then a regular occurrence – a roadside bomb targeting a US patrol.

It killed 20-year-old Lance Corp Miguel (“TJ”) Terrazas, driving one of four Humvee vehicles in the patrol, and injured two other marines.

A simple US military statement hinted at the bloody chain of events that the attack started – though subsequent scrutiny showed it to be far from the truth.

It said: “A US marine and 15 civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb in Haditha.

“Immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small arms fire. Iraqi army soldiers and marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding another.”

Video footage

The tragedy of Haditha may have been left at that – just another statistic of “war-torn” Iraq – a place too dangerous to be reported properly by journalists, where openness is not in the interests of political and military circles, and the sheer scale of death numbs the senses.

However, the following day a self-styled local journalist and human-rights activist, Taher Thabet al-Hadithi, got his video camera out and filmed scenes that – whatever they were – were not the aftermath of a roadside bombing.

Haditha is considered hostile territory for US marines
The bodies of women and children, still in their nightclothes, apparently shot in their own homes; interior walls and ceilings peppered with bullet holes; bloodstains on the floor.

A couple of months later, Mr Hadithi’s tape was passed to the US newsmagazine Time, which published an account based on the footage.

The magazine also handed a copy of the tape to US military commanders in Baghdad, who initiated a preliminary investigation.

See differing accounts of Haditha deaths
Following their findings, the official version was changed to say that, after the roadside bombing, the 15 civilians had been accidentally shot by marines during a gun fight with insurgents.

Nevertheless, on 9 March 2006 the top US commanders in Baghdad began a criminal investigation, led by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS).

On 7 April three officers in charge of troops in Haditha were also stripped of their command and reassigned.

‘Pretended to die’

Eyewitness accounts suggest that comrades of TJ Terrazas, far from coming under enemy fire, went on the rampage in Haditha after his death.

A US soldier came in and shot at us, I pretended to be dead and he didn’t notice me
Safa Younis
Twelve-year-old Safa Younis appears on video saying she was in one of three houses where troops came in and indiscriminately killed family members.

“They knocked at our front door and my father went to open it. They shot him dead from behind the door and then they shot him again,” she says in the video.

“Then one American soldier came in and shot at us all. I pretended to be dead and he didn’t notice me.”

There were eight bodies in the house, including Safa’s five siblings, aged between two and 14.

In another house seven people including a child and his 70-year-old grandfather were killed. Four brothers aged 41 to 24 died in a third house. Eyewitnesses said they were forced into a wardrobe and shot.

In the street, US troops gunned down four students and a taxi driver they had stopped at a roadblock set up after the bombing.

According to a witness, they were shot by the side of the road, as they stood with their hands on their heads.

Trials and inquiries

Events in Haditha have been the subject of several official investigations as well as criminal charges against some members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment alleged to have carried out the killings.

Sgt Wuterich was the last man to have murder charges dropped
The alleged ringleader, Sgt Frank Wuterich, 28, was charged with voluntary manslaughter while L/Cpl Stephen Tatum was changed with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Murder charges were dismissed against all the marines from Kilo Company, including Sgt Sanick Dela Cruz, who was granted immunity in exchange for giving evidence to the military court.

The defendants have stuck to their initial account, that the dead were either assailants or civilians killed unwittingly in the crossfire.

Their supporters in the US have accused Mr Hadithi of being an insurgent himself, and distorting or actually fabricating the evidence.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Iraqi government launched its own inquiry, saying there was a limit to the “acceptable excuses” by the US military for causing civilian deaths, in this as well as a string of other high-profile cases in Iraq.

A report by the US military in Iraq found that senior marine commanders had been negligent in their failure to properly investigate the Haditha killings, and four officers were initially charged with dereliction and failing to report and investigate the killings.

Two had their charges dismissed by a military court in the US, but Lt Col Jeffrey Chessani became the most senior US serviceman since the Vietnam War to face a court martial for actions in combat.

Ref. BBC

AMERICA’S “WAR ON TERRORISM”

AMERICA’S “WAR ON TERRORISM”

In this new and expanded edition of Michel Chossudovsky’s 2002 best seller, the author blows away the smokescreen put up by the mainstream media, that 9/11 was an attack on America by “Islamic terrorists”. Through meticulous research, the author uncovers a military-intelligence ploy behind the September 11 attacks, and the cover-up and complicity of key members of the Bush Administration.

The expanded edition, which includes twelve new chapters focuses on the use of 9/11 as a pretext for the invasion and illegal occupation of Iraq, the militarisation of justice and law enforcement and the repeal of democracy.

According to Chossudovsky, the “war on terrorism” is a complete fabrication based on the illusion that one man, Osama bin Laden, outwitted the $40 billion-a-year American intelligence apparatus. The “war on terrorism” is a war of conquest. Globalisation is the final march to the “New World Order”, dominated by Wall Street and the U.S. military-industrial complex.

September 11, 2001 provides a justification for waging a war without borders. Washington’s agenda consists in extending the frontiers of the American Empire to facilitate complete U.S. corporate control, while installing within America the institutions of the Homeland Security State.

Chossudovsky peels back layers of rhetoric to reveal a complex web of deceit aimed at luring the American people and the rest of the world into accepting a military solution which threatens the future of humanity.

The last chapter includes an analysis of the London 7/7 Bomb Attacks.

“Millions of people have been misled regarding the causes and consequences of September 11.

When people across the US and around the World find out that Al Qaeda is not an outside enemy but a creation of US foreign policy and the CIA, the legitimacy of the bipartisan war agenda will tumble like a deck of cards.”

Across the land, the image of an “outside enemy” is instilled in the consciousness of Americans. Al Qaeda is threatening America and the world. The repeal of democracy under the Patriot legislation is portrayed as a means to providing “domestic security” and upholding civil liberties.

The 9/11 Commission Report destroys the historical record of US covert support to international terrorism, while creating the illusion that America and “Western Civilization” are threatened. In turn, the various terrorist warnings and code orange alerts have created, across America, an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Michel Chossudovsky, America’s “War on Terrorism”, Global Research 2005

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition

Part I September 11

Background: behind September 11, Who is Osama bin Laden? Washington supports international terrorism, Cover-up or Complicity?

Part II War and Globalization

War and the Hidden Agenda, The Trans-Afghan Pipeline, America’s War Machine, The American Empire, Disarming the New World Order, Political Deception: the Missing Link Behind 9/11.

PART III The Disinformation Campaign

War Propaganda: Fabricating an Outside Enemy, 9/11 and the Iran Contra Scandal, Giving a Face to the Enemy, Who is Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi? Protecting Al Qaeda Fighters in the War Theater.

Part IV The New World Order

War Criminals in High Office, The Spoils of War: Afghanistan’s Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade, Foreknowledge of 9/11, What happened on the Planes on the Morning of 9/11, America’s Preemptive War Doctrine, The Post 9/11 Terror Alerts, Big Brother: Towards the Homeland Security State, The London 7/7 Bomb Attacks.

Appendices: Intelligence based on Plagiarism: The British “Intelligence” Iraq Dossier, The Financial Interests behind the World Trade Center (WTC) Lease.

The Bush administration’s ties to Blackwater

Blamed in the deaths of Iraqi civilians, the private security firm has long ties to the White House and prominent Republicans, including Ken Starr.

Oct. 2, 2007 | When Blackwater contractors guarding a U.S. State Department convoy allegedly killed 11 unarmed Iraqi civilians on Sept. 16, it was only the latest in a series of controversial shooting incidents associated with the private security firm. Blackwater has a reputation for being quick on the draw. Since 2005, the North Carolina-based company, which has about 1,000 contractors in Iraq, has reported 195 “escalation of force incidents”; in 163 of those cases Blackwater guns fired first. According to the New York Times, Blackwater guards were twice as likely as employees of two other firms protecting State Department personnel in Iraq to be involved in shooting incidents.

On Tuesday morning, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will hold a hearing on the U.S. military’s use of private contractors. When Waxman announced plans for the hearing last week, the State Department directed Blackwater not to give any information or testimony without its signoff. After a public spat between Rep. Waxman and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the State Department relented. Blackwater CEO and founder Erik Prince is now scheduled to testify at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

But the attempt to shield Prince was apparently not the first time State had protected Blackwater. A report issued by Waxman on Monday alleges that State helped Blackwater cover up Iraqi fatalities. In December 2006, State arranged for the company to pay $15,000 to the family of an Iraqi guard who was shot and killed by a drunken Blackwater employee. In another shooting death, the payment was $5,000. As CNN reported Monday, the State Department also allowed a Blackwater employee to write State’s initial “spot report” on the Sept. 16 shooting incident — a report that did not mention civilian casualties and claimed contractors were responding to an insurgent attack on a convoy.

The ties between State and Blackwater are only part of a web of relationships that Blackwater has maintained with the Bush administration and with prominent Republicans. From 2001 to 2007, the firm has increased its annual federal contracts from less than $1 million to more than $500 million, all while employees passed through a turnstile between Blackwater and the administration, several leaving important posts in the Pentagon and the CIA to take jobs at the security company. Below is a list of some of Blackwater’s luminaries with their professional — and political — résumés.

Erik Prince, founder and CEO: How did Blackwater go from a small corporation training local SWAT teams to a seemingly inseparable part of U.S. operations in Iraq? Good timing, and the connections of its CEO, may be the answer.

Prince, who founded Blackwater in 1996 but reportedly took a behind-the-scenes role in the company until after 9/11, has connections to the Republican Party in his blood. His late father, auto-parts magnate Edgar Prince, was instrumental in the creation of the Family Research Council, one of the right-wing Christian groups most influential with the George W. Bush administration. At his funeral in 1995, he was eulogized by two stalwarts of the Christian conservative movement, James Dobson and Gary Bauer. Edgar Prince’s widow, Elsa, who remarried after her husband’s death, has served on the boards of the FRC and another influential Christian-right organization, Dobson’s Focus on the Family. She currently runs the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, where, according to IRS filings, her son Erik is a vice president. The foundation has given lavishly to some of the marquee names of the Christian right. Between July 2003 and July 2006, the foundation gave at least $670,000 to the FRC and $531,000 to Focus on the Family.

Both Edgar and Elsa have been affiliated with the Council for National Policy, the secretive Christian conservative organization whose meetings have been attended by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer, and whose membership is rumored to include Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Dobson. The Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation gave the CNP $80,000 between July 2003 and July 2006.

The former Betsy Prince — Edgar and Elsa’s daughter, Erik’s sister — married into the DeVos family, one of the country’s biggest donors to Republican and conservative causes. (“I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party,” Betsy DeVos wrote in a 1997 Op-Ed in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.) She chaired the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000 and again from 2003 to 2005, and her husband, Dick, ran as the Republican candidate for Michigan governor in 2006.

Erik Prince himself is no slouch when it comes to giving to Republicans and cultivating relationships with important conservatives. He and his first and second wives have donated roughly $300,000 to Republican candidates and political action committees. Through his Freiheit Foundation, he also gave $500,000 to Prison Fellowship Ministries, run by former Nixon official Charles Colson, in 2000. In the same year, he contributed $30,000 to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. During college, he interned in George H.W. Bush’s White House, and also interned for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. Rohrabacher and fellow California Republican Rep. John Doolittle have visited Blackwater’s Moyock, N.C., compound, on a trip arranged by the Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm founded by former aides of then House Majority Leader Tom Delay. ASG partner Paul Behrends is a longtime associate of Prince’s.

Prince’s connections seem to have paid off for Blackwater. Robert Young Pelton, author of “Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror,” has reported that one of Blackwater’s earliest contracts in the national arena was a no-bid $5.4 million deal to provide security guards in Afghanistan, which came after Prince made a call to then CIA executive director Buzzy Krongard. What’s more, Harper’s Ken Silverstein has reported that Prince has a security pass for CIA headquarters and “meets with senior people” inside the CIA. But Prince’s most important benefactor was fellow conservative Roman Catholic convert L. Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American occupation government in Iraq. In August 2003, Blackwater won a $27.7 million contract to provide personal security for Bremer. In charge of the Blackwater team guarding Bremer was Frank Gallagher, who had provided personal security for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when Bremer was managing director of Kissinger’s consulting firm, Kissinger and Associates, in the 1990s.

By 2005, Blackwater was earning $353 million annually from federal contracts. Blackwater’s benefits from government largess haven’t ended with Iraq. The company was recently one of five awarded a Department of Defense counter-narcoterrorism contract that could reportedly be worth as much as $15 billion. Blackwater also became involved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and profited handsomely. According to Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” Blackwater had made roughly $73 million for Katrina-related government work by June 2006, less than a year after the hurricane hit.

Joseph Schmitz, chief operating officer and general counsel: In 2002, President Bush nominated Schmitz to oversee and police the Pentagon’s military contracts as the Defense Department’s inspector general. Schmitz presided over the largest increase of military-contracting spending in history: As of 2005, 77 companies were awarded 149 “prime contracts” worth $42.1 billion, with hundreds of millions going to Blackwater. Unlike previous I.G.s, Schmitz reported directly to the secretary of defense — a setup that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers objected to, given Schmitz’s oversight responsibility. Schmitz even carried Rumsfeld’s “12 principles” for the Pentagon in his lapel pocket. The first principle read, “Do nothing that could raise questions about the credibility of DoD.”

Schmitz has many ties to the Republican Party establishment. His father, John G. Schmitz, was a two-term Republican congressman, and his brother, Patrick Schmitz, served as George H.W. Bush’s deputy counsel from 1985 to 1993. Joseph himself worked as a special assistant to Reagan-era Attorney General Edwin Meese.

Schmitz resigned in 2005 under mounting pressure from both Democratic and Republican senators, who accused him of interfering with criminal investigations into inappropriately awarded contracts, turning a blind eye to conflicts of interest and other failures of oversight. According to an October 2005 article in Time magazine, Schmitz showed the White House the results of his staff’s multiyear investigation into a contract in which the Air Force leased air-refueling tankers from Boeing for more than it would have cost to buy them, then agreed to redact the names of senior White House staffers involved in the decision before sending the final report to Congress. Schmitz informed his staff on Aug. 26, 2005, that he was leaving the Pentagon; in September of that year, he went to work for Blackwater.

J. Cofer Black, vice chairman: Black spent most of his 28-year CIA career running covert operations in the Directorate of Operations, where he worked with Rob Richer (below). At the time of the 9/11 attacks, he was director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. There he was former CIA Director George Tenet’s ace in the hole when it came to convincing Bush that the CIA should lead initial U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan after 9/11. Black is, according to published accounts, a man with a flair for the dramatic, the kind of briefer President Bush likes. In one briefing, according to several reports, Black told the president, “When we’re through with [terrorists in Afghanistan], they will have flies walking across their eyeballs.” (Black also ordered CIA field officer Gary Schroen to bring back Osama bin Laden’s head packed in dry ice so Black could show it to Bush.) Black’s Afghanistan presentation earned him “special access” to the White House, the Washington Post’s Dana Priest reported in December 2005.

Black is also one of the more prominent faces associated with the Bush administration’s interrogation and extraordinary rendition policies. In a famous moment, Black told Congress in 2002, “After 9/11, the gloves came off.” And the group within the CIA responsible for extraordinary renditions — operations in which covert agents grab terror suspects and take them to secret prison facilities for interrogations that would normally be prohibited as torture — fell under Black at the CTC, Priest has reported.

Black later went to the State Department, where one of his roles was to begin coordinating security for the 2004 Olympics in Greece. In 2003, the State Department gave Blackwater a contract to train the Olympic security teams.

In 2004, Black left the State Department to join Blackwater, part of what Harper’s Silverstein termed a “revolving door to Blackwater” from the CIA. In addition to his work with Blackwater and his own company, Total Intelligence Solutions, Black also recently joined the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, where he serves the Republican hopeful as senior advisor for counterterrorism and national security.

Rob Richer, vice president for intelligence: Richer was head of the CIA’s Near East division — and the agency’s liaison with King Abdullah of Jordan — from 1999 to 2004. In 2003, he briefed President Bush on the nascent Iraqi insurgency. In late 2004, he became the associate deputy director in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, making him the second-ranking official for clandestine operations. He left the agency for Blackwater in the fall of 2005, effectively taking the agency’s relationship with Abdullah with him. The CIA had invested millions of dollars in training Jordan’s intelligence services. There was an obvious quid pro quo: In exchange for the training, Jordan would share information. Jordan has now hired Blackwater’s intelligence division — headed by Richer — to do its spy training instead. The CIA isn’t happy, writes Silverstein: “People [at the agency] are pissed off,” said Silverstein’s source. “Abdullah still speaks with Richer regularly and he thinks that’s the same thing as talking to us. He thinks Richer is still the man.”

Fred Fielding, former outside counsel: After four Blackwater employees were tortured and killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, their families brought a wrongful-death lawsuit against Blackwater, charging that the company had not provided adequate arms, armor and backup. Blackwater feared that if it was found liable for its employees’ deaths, a floodgate of future litigation could be opened. To fight the suit, Blackwater hired Fielding, the consummate Republican insider. Dan Callahan, a lawyer representing the families, told Salon he was shocked when he learned Fielding would be representing the company. “How the hell,” Callahan says he wondered at the time, “did I draw Fred Fielding on this case?”

Fielding has had a long career as a lawyer to prominent Republicans. From 1970 to 1972, he was an associate White House counsel in the Nixon administration; from 1972 to 1974, he was present for the denouement of that administration as deputy White House counsel. Under President Reagan, he served as White House counsel from 1981 to 1986, where he was the boss of a young assistant counsel named John Roberts, now the chief justice of the United States. After the 2000 election, he served the current administration as transition counsel, and he also held a spot on the 9/11 Commission. In January 2007, Bush chose him as White House counsel.

Ken Starr, outside counsel: According to Callahan, Fielding represented Blackwater as outside counsel for about six months beginning in February 2005. After Fielding left the case, the law firm Greenberg Traurig, which was once home to Jack Abramoff and worked for George W. Bush in the Florida recount, represented Blackwater till October 2006. Blackwater then hired another high-profile lawyer with impeccable Republican credentials — Ken Starr, now the dean of Pepperdine Law School in California. Starr was appointed to the federal bench by Reagan, was U.S. solicitor general under George H.W. Bush and was on Bush’s shortlist to replace William Brennan on the Supreme Court. He is best known, however, as the independent counsel who investigated Bill Clinton. He revealed the intimate details of Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky in the infamous Starr Report and set in motion Clinton’s impeachment by Congress.

Blackwater continues to assert that the state of North Carolina lacks jurisdiction in the wrongful-death lawsuit against the security firm. On Oct. 18, 2006, Starr petitioned Chief Justice Roberts on behalf of Blackwater, asserting that the company was “constitutionally immune” to the lawsuit. “If companies such as Blackwater must factor the defense costs of state tort lawsuits into [their] overall costs,” argued Starr, “Blackwater will suffer irreparable harm.” Roberts denied the petition on Oct. 24. In December, Starr filed a motion to bring the matter before the entire Supreme Court. The motion was denied in February.

Ref: Salon

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